Page added on February 15, 2013
By Emma Friedmann:
I don’t think it should be. This is my opinion which is based on personal experience as a parent and a school governor.
I had ‘written off’ my Son by Year 6. He was at a main stream primary school and was not making much progress. He was increasingly unable to access the curriculum and partake in classroom activities. He had no friends and couldn’t access social events.
There was no way in my mind that Andy would ever contribute to society, go out to work and live independently. That meant that as a single parent I had to accept I was going to be a Carer for the rest of my life and therefore be unable to throw myself into a career that I so desperately wanted.
In 2010 he started at West Gate SEN School. Within 3 weeks he was beginning to converse. He had been silent except for one word use when he wanted or needed something while at mainstream.
I gave up work so I could give him extra support. The standard of childcare had been unsuitable and unreliable during the school holidays and I wanted to give him more quality input.
Within 6 months of being at West Gate, Andy had the desire to communicate verbally. His confidence had grown immensely and he had a friend. I still couldn’t imagine him working or living independently.
My opinion suddenly changed when I became aware of West Gate’s learning centre based at New College. Students were studying for GCSE’s, they were doing work experience, their independence skills were improving and they were being integrated with the mainstream students at New College. The provision was there to make it possible for my Son to achieve.
West Gate have made excellent links with Remploy, Connexions, employers and colleges. Andy may have the ability to access the learning centre when he’s 16 or 17. Hopefully by the age of 19 he may be ready to go to college or to have work based learning.
I am so excited about this possibility. I could die knowing that my Son has sufficient life skills to exist safely without me. This possibility is so reassuring. He will always be vulnerable and more likely to be abused, but with the experience of work and independent living he may be more able to realise what he is experiencing is wrong, he will be able to communicate and he will be mixing with a varied group of people who could raise his concerns appropriately.
I am very concerned about the proposal to cut post 16 school transport for the following reasons.
• I would have to take him to school on public transport. This would take 4 hours out of my day and would make it impossible for me to go out to work full time.
• I would continue to rely on benefits and just when Andy needs money to access social groups and hobbies he would have to spend a substantial amount on our transport to and from school.
• Due to our financial circumstances it is likely Andy would leave school at 16 and remain unable to participate in society. • I will sink into depression, become medicated, reliant on benefits and be unemployable.
• Andy will need to access adult social care and supported living as I will be unable to cope.
My views have been voiced by others and hopefully the consultation team at Leicester City Council have thought about the knock on effects of removing school transport. The hypothetical situations I have described are realistic outcomes for many young people and their carers and it upsets me.
What is the point of educating these children if they’re never going to have an opportunity to use that education.
I do not object to a charge of £10 per week as a contribution towards the fantastic service provided by the minibus team (the office, escorts, drivers, maintenance workers and others). Parents of children at mainstream schools pay £10 per week and I think that is reasonable.
I am hoping that the City Council agenda is not to reduce the number of young disabled people staying on at school. If less children post 16 were attending school there would be substantial savings to be made. Less school and college places to pay for, less teachers and support staff, less minibus staff. There would be increased demand for adult social care and day centres but my guess is it would be cheaper than school provision.
The services available in Leicester are outstanding when compared to other areas of the country. We need to, as a community recognise this and support our council in it’s efforts to provide for the disabled and vulnerable people of Leicester.
A Governor’s view
My concern as a Governor is that the forward planning of services in a school are dependent on knowing approximate figures for the number of students the school provides for. The work being done during the transition phase of a child’s education (14-19) will need to be amended if there are less students enrolled post 16. The impact of reduced numbers of post 16 students will jeopardise the links made with stakeholders. Many of the stakeholders have based their strategy on the number of students accessing their services. If there are less service users there will be less funds available to these organisations. This will lead to further redundancies and a substantial decrease in the quality of provision for the post 16 age group.
Employers are seeing the benefits of employing people with learning disabilities. They are hard working, committed and reliable members of staff. These valuable members of staff could only reach employable status by accessing post 16 school and college education.
The benefits of reducing the post 16 education provision is that there would be more places available to children under 16 in SEN schools. Staff may be lost in the post 16 provision but other school staff may be employed for the under 16 group.
I appreciate that savings have to be made or new resources found. With more redundancies, more unemployable young people and Carers the bill for adult social care, welfare payments including housing and council tax benefits will only increase.
In summary, I believe it is wrong to cut post 16 transport. I think it is reasonable for parents and carers to contribute as all other parents contribute to transport costs. I don’t think it should be means tested as many people not reliant on benefits are being squeezed financially and are also classed as living in poverty.
Is it possible for some of our Leicester charities and not for profit organisations to pool resources. Share an office, share equipment, organise events together, compile our information leaflets in a booklet instead of us all working individually. It would be difficult but I believe it is possible for us to work together and achieve the quality of services that our vulnerable deserve.
Our vulnerable youth need to have their voice heard and the opportunity to contribute to society.